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University of Miami: Couple supports brighter futures for LGBTQ+ students

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Alumnus Jorge Amaya was scanning a University of Miami publication when he noticed a story spotlighting a fellow ’Cane who had established a scholarship fund to benefit gay students.

“It just kind of clicked in the back of my mind—that’s something I would really like to do,” said Amaya, who had himself received a scholarship during his time at the University. “I wanted to pay it forward.”

After years of consistent giving to scholarship funds, Amaya turned to his spouse, Robert Roark, to plan an even bigger, lasting gift.

“We know firsthand that it can be difficult to grow up gay in our society, and we just wanted to help future LGBQT+ students on their quest to achieving all their goals in life—academic, financial, and personal,” Amaya said.

Now, Amaya and Roark have planned a significant bequest to establish a scholarship to help LGBTQ+ students.

“Many alumni and friends of the University choose to make planned gifts as a means of continuing proud traditions and shared values among future generations of ’Canes,” said Josh Friedman, senior vice president for development and alumni relations. “Jorge and Robert demonstrate the best values that the University aims to instill in its students, including generosity, service, and pride, and further the distinction of our institution with their gift.”

Amaya and Roark’s gift is part of Ever Brighter: The University of Miami’s Campaign for Our Next Century. The most ambitious in the University’s history, the $2.5 billion campaign is set to conclude in 2025, when the University will celebrate its centennial.

“It was important to us to leave a legacy that benefitted people in a meaningful way. We chose to target the LGBTQ+ student body to help them complete their degrees and go on to lead their very best lives,” Roark said.

Amaya noted the power of these types of scholarships to increase representation, visibility, acceptance, and overall opportunity for LGBTQ+ students.

“We know of several people in our community who have taken in LGBTQ+ youngsters, kids who were kicked out of their homes because of their sexuality,” Amaya said. “And, of course, that also often means they are cut off [financially],” he added.

“Think of how difficult it would be to be in that position—on your own, making your way, and for some, without any family support,” Roark said. “I think we just want to make it a little easier, to help some of those kids out,” Amaya chimed in.

The couple recently attended the Lavender Celebration, which recognizes and highlights the accomplishments and contributions of graduating LGBTQ+ students and community allies.

“It’s just kind of mind-blowing. I think to myself, well, something is going right,” Amaya said, commenting on the diversity of students and representation at the celebration. “It really gives you hope for the future,” Roark added.

“I don’t know if we’ll be remembered, but it makes us feel good now to know that we’re doing our part to address all the need out there,” Amaya said, discussing the gift. “And this is our way of doing that for a group of people that we can understand, and we sympathize with some of what they’ve been through.”